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Claire: get…me…out of here

October 31, 2009

is the phrase i have been repressing for the past two and a half days.

It’s not that my village is bad or anything…just…DIFFERENT. every single thing about it is different.

Here I live not in a house but in a communal dwelling encircled by concrete with about five concrete buildings inside and two grass tents for cooking. Needless to say i live with a big big family. There are kids running everywhere in a big gang playing; adults sit under a big tree and talk, nap, nurse babies, etc; boys are pretty much nowhere to be found during the day. I honestly dont see any of them until around 9 pm when its time for dinner: girls my age and moms do most of the work, such as cooking, cleaning, taking care of the animals, etc. There are chickens and goats running around my compound as well. I made friends with one baby goat. I pet him and he nuzzles up to me, which everyone thinks is quite hilarious and stupid of me.

I sleep on two foam pads on a concrete floor. I didnt know it until too late but I basically kicked my sister out of her room; she sleeps in the living room now. I tried to get her to switch back but she refuses. She’s about my age but still has four years left before she graduates and goes on to university; she is constantly running around making dinner, helping a blind man who lives in our compound, doing laundry; getting water, etc. I feel totally inadequate and lazy all the time. Oh, and she’s gorgeous, by the way.

It’s not all completely rustic. There are lots of things I have here that I didnt have in Dakar; the best news of all is that I HAVE AN ACTUAL FACTUAL SHOWER! This is something I definitely did not have in Dakar. Also, ALHAMDILILAH, i have a flushing toilet WITH a toilet seat, which is new. For the past two nights weve brought a table and tv out on the concrete patio to watch after dinner; I’ve seen more tv here in the past two days than in two months in Dakar. Also we drink ataya (this really amazing tea) like its nobodies business. So its definitely not all bad.

No its not bad at all. The highlight so far has been yesterday when I followed my sister and all the other girls from the village to the well. They tied ropes to old gasoline jugs and dipped the jugs down down down the well to the water, hauled them back up, dumped the water in a big, plastic, rainbow colored buckets, filled them to the brim and carried them home on their heads. She gave me a smaller, toubab sized bucket to carry on my head and I walked back home in the line of girls with buckets of water. I was pretty elated: lets face it i had been practicing for this moment ever since I saw the jungle book and idolized the girl at the end with the bucket on her head singing my own home and luring mowgli away from the jungle.

I also like the weather here, at night theres a cool breeze that makes it the perfect weather to just sit outside and chat. It reminds me of summer nights in colorado and reminds me of something my fav african studies teacher told me: if you like colorado weather youll like western africa. Well I think she meant interior western africa. Any way its pretty gorgeous weather here, made more beautiful by the absence of city smog and garbage smell in the air.

It is just completely and totally different and therefore really hard to get used to; i have no idea if my family likes me or hates me or is simply putting up with me. Mostly i suspect the third.

The men are also even more forward, which I didnt think was possible. I have so far gotten three marriage proposals and even more requests to take them back to america with me.

When I walk the sand path home after work children come RUNNING out of their houses yelling TOUBAB and pointing and laughing at me.

Actually people laugh at me a lot, if I try to speak wolof or sererre, if I try to cook or clean, etc. All I want to do is be included; it feels so much better when I’m actually doing something or helping someone. When I was dropped off I was told by my prof to assimilate completely and I’m trying, but I feel like most of the time I just get laughed at or am so inadequate its sad.

It also sucks being in an area where there is almost NO french spoken, many people in my compund dont even speak french. I’m either wondering if they’re talking about me or absolutely certain they are. And all in a language I dont understand but am expected to.

I knew this wasnt going to be easy, but I found myself wondering why I thought it would be anything but extremely hard, maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Not painful or traumatizing, just HARD. I dont fit it not because anyone is inadequate but just because i just really do not fit in. I am and they are just plain different.

But I’m going to keep my chin up and keep thinking about it as an exercise in self confidence, will power and self assuredness. And also in accepting and experiencing completely different cultures. I go through about twelve emotional roller coasters every day, from I LIKE IT HERE! to GET ME OUT OF HERE! and back, but I keep reminding myself that five weeks will actually go pretty fast so I should soak in the experience while i can. I tell you what, tho, it definitely puts two and a half years in the peace corps into perspective.

I’m at a cyber cafe in a town kind of close by but it was kind of an ordeal to get here. I felt like my family was both amazed and annoyed that i wanted to come here, they feel like they need to accompany me everywhere, despite my protests. So, my posts will be much less frequent, but I will try to hoof it here at least once every weekend…

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